Citing financial challenges, Stanford University on Wednesday announced it will eliminate 11 of 36 intercollegiate athletics teams by the end of the 2020-21 academic year. The teams cut are men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, coed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball, and wrestling.
Stanford said in a statement that 240 student athletes will be affected by the cuts, as well as 22 dedicated coaches. The university is eliminating 20 support staff positions as part of the reductions.
The university's athletics department is particularly large, with 850 student athletes, roughly 12 percent of Stanford's undergraduate population. It also has been very successful, having for 25 consecutive years won the Directors' Cup, an award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics for the most overall success in college athletics.
But Stanford said the cost of operating the department had led to a projected $12 million deficit in fiscal year 2021, which was likely to grow steadily in coming years.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession have only exacerbated the gap; before these sport reductions, our revised forecasts indicated a best-case scenario of a $25 million deficit in FY21, factoring in the effects of COVID-19, and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $70 million over the next three years," said a statement from Stanford's president, provost and director of athletics. "These projected deficits could become much greater if the 2020-21 sports seasons are suspended or altered due to COVID-19."
The total amount of incremental funding need to permanently sustain the 11 eliminated sports teams at a nationally competitive varsity level would be more than $200 million, according to Stanford.
"Today’s announcement brings the three of us great sadness, though we realize ours is nowhere near the level of pain and disappointment that our student-athletes, parents, alumni and supporters of the impacted sports are experiencing," the statement said.